Over half a million Venezuelans want to help. A delegation from the EU Parliament was expelled from the country directly from Maiquetía Airport, on government’s orders. Russian bank Gazprombank froze PDVSA’s accounts. U.S. military planes carrying medical and nutritional supplies landed this weekend in Cúcuta.
“Who are we? Volunteers! What do we want? Help!”, chanted the people who attended the call at El Nacional offices on Saturday. As expected, the space was insufficient, but the pictures and videos of the long lines of volunteers ready to coordinate the entry of humanitarian aid to the country, are a message in itself.
Hoy #16Feb los #VoluntariosXVenezuela se encuentran desde la sede del @ElNacionalWeb para organizarnos y coordinar el ingreso de la #AyudaHumanitaria este #23Feb. pic.twitter.com/WqBkR9G88M
— Asamblea Nacional (@AsambleaVE) February 16, 2019
In contrast, Pedro Carreño spoke for chavismo on Sunday, claiming that the regime has 8,483 “expert snipers with infallible portable infrared anti-aircraft system.” Only chavismo wants conflict, speaking of weapons, of war, of invasions and shows, while threatening with its firepower. The rest of the country is trying to organize to help despite their own lacks. We’ve all lost quality of life, only chavismo insists on denying that; only chavismo would rather see Venezuelans die that leaving power.
The regime prevented five European Parliament lawmakers invited by the National Assembly from entering the country, forcing them to leave in the same Iberia plane where they’d come. Esteban González Pons said on Twitter: “They took our passports and are expelling us from Venezuela. They’re treating us poorly (…) We’re parliamentarians and we have an official invitation from the National Assembly, if they stop us or expel us, it will be the definitive demonstration that all windows have been closed here and the European Union will have to leave the Contact Group immediately.”
Atención,nos han quitado los pasaportes y nos expulsan de Venezuela.Nos están tratando mal y la única explicación que dan es que Maduro no nos quiere aquí.
— González Pons (@gonzalezpons) February 17, 2019
González Pons @gonzalezpons: “En este momento estamos siendo expulsados de Venezuela” pic.twitter.com/TOILDhoWnF
— Pablo Montesinos (@montesinospablo) February 17, 2019
Besides Diosdado Cabello’s mockery, Jorge Arreaza said that the group “who sought to visit the country with conspiratorial motives,” they were told that they wouldn’t be admitted “and they were urged to desist and thus avoid another provocation,” because the regime “won’t allow the European far-right to disturb the country’s peace and stability.”
Por vías oficiales diplomáticas, las autoridades del Gobierno Bolivariano de Venezuela le notificaron hace varios días al grupo de eurodiputados que pretendía visitar el país con fines conspirativos, que no serían admitidos y se les instó a desistir y evitar así otra provocación
— Jorge Arreaza M (@jaarreaza) February 18, 2019
Now Russia freezes
A week ago, PDVSA asked its partners to deposit the revenue from oil sales in an account of Russian bank Gazprombank, a method to sidestep U.S. sanctions. Well, this Sunday, Reuters reported that Gazprombank decided to freeze PDVSA’s accounts and suspended transactions with that company in order to reduce the risk of falling under U.S. sanctions, despite being a lender aligned with the Russian state. Regarding PDVSA exports, Marianna Párraga, a journalist specialized in oil, explains that the company continues dispatching, mainly to Asia, that the average since January 28th (the day the U.S. imposed its sanctions) is 1.04 million barrels per day and they’re taking it to refineries in India, China and Singapore. Aside from the exports, there are tankers that were dispatched before the sanctions and others are also waiting to be loaded in PDVSA’s ports. The amount “is below the historic record, but it means that exports will continue flowing,” wrote Párraga, adding that fuel imports are flowing slowly but haven’t ceased.
“Hope will multiply”
Caretaker President Juan Guaidó asked volunteers to multiply the message so that more people join the movement, which already gathers 600,000 Venezuelans: “Today, we’re here telling the world that our movement is profoundly peaceful, that our movement is also profoundly determined, not only to get part of the humanitarian aid into the country, but also to end the usurpation,” said Guaidó, connecting this objective to street protests. He called the entire country to mobilize on Saturday, February 23rd: “The volunteer movement won’t only be at the border, but in every city in the country, where there will be rallies to await the access of the aid.” He restated to the Armed Forces that they have “one week to do the right thing, to not only uphold the Constitution, but humanity.”
#Ahora @jguaido envía mensaje a los militares pic.twitter.com/ZVLCte745j
— Efecto Cocuyo (@EfectoCocuyo) February 16, 2019
The forms of repression
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS expressed their profound concern for the detention (without prior judicial warrant) of members of Fundación Mavid and Red Venezolana de Gente Positiva and condemned the confiscation of medicines and milk formulas; they also reminded the regime of the agreements signed by the state with the Pan American Health Organization and UNAIDS, which include and recognize the role of NGOs in the process of acquiring, distributing, monitoring and delivering medicines.
Comunicado de Prensa de la Oficina Regional de ONUSIDA para América Latina y el Caribe después de la detención de tres representantes de @VenezolanosVIH. @Fundacionmavid @ACCSI_VIHSIDA #Venezuela https://t.co/kdWIXxqO4n pic.twitter.com/4YQZorUZFr
— ONUSIDA Latina (@OnusidaLatina) February 16, 2019
Omitting the detail of carrying out a raid without a warrant, CICPC director Douglas Rico spoke of the expiration date of the confiscated medicines and explained that the CICPC responded expeditiously to the complaint of a person who allegedly paid Bs. 15,000 (in cash, to leave no trace) for a medicine that had expired in 2015. Last night, human rights activist Raiza Farnataro, head of the foundation Conciencia por la vida (which also works with HIV patients) denounced that she’s been targeted by the threats and harassment of state security bodies and made them responsible for her physical integrity.
#TodosConRaiza #ONGLaborHumanitariaBajoAtaque No al hostigamiento e intimidación contra organizaciones de ayuda humanitaria pic.twitter.com/0WiYeR2tQO
— CIVILIS DDHH (@CivilisDDHH) February 18, 2019
Movements on the board
Three military planes with humanitarian aid for Venezuela landed on Saturday in Cúcuta. The boxes contain hygiene supplies for about 25,000 people, as well as small packets of energy and protein bars to feed some 3,500 malnourished children, said USAID chief Mark Green, who said the regime’s claims were absurd, explaining that this aid is necessary because the Venezuelan regime has failed to feed its people.
Looking at the #Venezuelan border from #Colombia. I call on Venezuelan security forces to let life-saving aid across the border immediately. The urgent humanitarian need in #Venezuela is vast, and it is growing every day. #EstamosUnidosVE pic.twitter.com/xpJCHekrJY
— Mark Green (@USAIDMarkGreen) February 17, 2019
Jorge Arreaza denounced that the U.S. State Department restricted the free movement of Samuel Moncada, Nicolás’s diplomat at the OAS and the UN, by 25 miles (a little over 40 kilometers) in New York, saying that this measure is meant to prevent Moncada from reaching Washington to attend OAS Permanent Council sessions. U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence asked the European Union to recognize Juan Guaidó “as the only legitimate president of Venezuela,” during the Security Conference in Munich. The superior general of the Society of Jesus, Arturo Sosa, also called the black pope, spoke about the possibility for Venezuelans to find “a path to reach a peaceful solution that leads to political elections that everyone can feel legitimate and a possibility for the future,” regretting the country’s complex humanitarian emergency and alerting about the risk implied by the political crisis. U.S. senators Marco Rubio and Mario Díaz-Balart, along with Carlos Trujillo, U.S. ambassador to the OAS, visited Cúcuta this Sunday to supervise the humanitarian aid sent by their country.
Hace minutos visité el Centro Scalabrini junto a mi esposa Jeanette, @MarioDB y @USAmbOAS. Gracias al padre Francesco Bortignon por su trabajo ayudando al los #venezolanos que se encuentran en #Cúcuta. pic.twitter.com/1ayfCSg9Um
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) February 17, 2019
By expelling the European Parliament lawmakers, Nicolás just secured not only another disgraceful entry in the front pages of many newspapers, but also helped the European Union reach a collective response for his attack. This Monday, February 18th, EU Foreign Affairs ministers will meet to discuss Venezuela’s situation and this incident will obviously be in the agenda.
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